Somerset host Lancashire in quarter-final at world’s highest-scoring T20 venue
Livingstone’s travelling roadshow has had stops in Southampton, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds and north London over the last month, which has seen him become the Hundred’s leading run-scorer, top six-hitter and poster boy. He has already hit 78 sixes in 2021 and will never have a better chance of joining Andre Russell (2019) and Chris Gayle (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017) in the elite club of T20 hitters to have scaled Mount 100 in a calendar year.
His next stop is Taunton – the highest-scoring T20 venue in not only the country, but the world – for Lancashire’s Vitality Blast quarter-final against Somerset on Thursday night. The pitches are flat and the boundaries are barely 70 metres long in any direction. The average scoring rate of 8.92 runs per over is unmatched and Somerset’s group game against Middlesex this year was the only time in the 19 seasons of domestic T20 cricket there that they have defended a score below 170 on home soil.
Livingstone has played a solitary innings in a Taunton T20, a skittish 16 off 18 balls on England debut four years ago as South Africa closed out a narrow win. It is the sort of innings it is near-impossible to imagine him playing now: he is averaging 45.69 with a strike rate of 156.52 in T20s this year and on the rare occasions that he has failed, it has been early on rather than after chewing up balls.
He insists the biggest factor has been a shift in mindset but has also put in the hard yards. Whereas once he would have been given a run in the England side, he was summarily dropped from the T20I side after two games and only returned four years later at the age of 27, by which stage he was near enough the finished article. He has played 97 T20s for eight teams in the last two-and-a-half years, travelling the world to give himself exposure to different roles and conditions across the franchise circuit, and has taken a keen interest in the technical aspects of his batting.
“Going around the different leagues and travelling the world isn’t always easy,” he said last week. “It’s not always the glitz and glamour that people think it is but that hard work is paying off for me. It’s been a breakthrough couple of months and the biggest thing is that I don’t have too many expectations on myself anymore. I go out each game making sure that I’m taking it all in and knowing that this doesn’t last forever.
“I used to swing as hard as I could but hopefully I’ve grown up a little bit. I’m a bit more experienced and I’m trying to become more consistent at hitting sixes, which I have done over the past year. It’s such a valuable thing to have in your armoury and it’s something that’s set me up to be able to be picked up in the PSL, the Big Bash or wherever it is around the world.”
“I used to lose a lot of my power with too wide a base, so I’ve narrowed it a bit,” he explained during a recent six-hitting masterclass with Sky Sports. “We did loads of sessions going into that self-isolation period and as soon as I came out of it, it worked perfectly.
“My biggest thing nowadays is making sure that I have a strong base and if I’m balanced, I have the ability to use my back hip which gives me a lot of power. I’m making sure that I’m not losing my front foot too much, which means I lose the back hip and then all of sudden lose my power.”
Livingstone’s impressive balls-per-six ratio was cited as the main reason he was picked up by Rajasthan Royals in the 2018 IPL auction and he is aware that it makes him stand out. “We talk about being able to hit big sixes as an entertainment thing because it’s great fun but it’s also a great thing to have: you can back yourself to clear an 80-metre boundary with a long-on in, rather than just being able to clear a 30-yard circle for a one-bounce four.”
There is added pressure on Livingstone to perform on Thursday night because Lancashire are suffering an availability crisis: Keaton Jennings (calf), Richard Gleeson (back) and Luke Wood (side strain) are all expected to miss out while Jos Buttler is on England Test duty, Finn Allen is self-isolating in Bangladesh and Saqib Mahmood will stay at Headingley as Covid/concussion cover despite missing out on selection. They will also have to overcome their struggles on the road, having lost five out of their six away games in the group stage.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98